On an autumn day in 1842, William Hone lay dying. He was by now an obscure figure, but through the services of an old friend, George Cruikshank, he sent a request to Charles Dickens that he might shake his hand before he died. The famous novelist agreed to the request, and for a brief moment Dickens, Cruikshank, and William Hone came together in Hone's shabby London home. The meeting apparently meant little to Dickens who, subsequently attending Hone's funeral, recounted with comic viciousness Cruikshank's histrionics as his old friend was laid to rest. Writing to an American friend, Cornelius Felton, Dickens described how he found himself “almost sobbing with laughter at the funereal absurdities of George Cruikshank and others” (Ackroyd 407). The encounter between Dickens, Cruikshank, and Hone in 1842 is a little-known but with hindsight a significant convergence; for despite Dickens's seeming disregard for the ailing and rather threadbare old bookseller, the deathbed tableau crystallizes an important and much overlooked connection between Dickens's writings and an earlier popular radical tradition.
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